dress codes in gilead
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Dress codes in todays western society are meant to express our individuality. I live in the frozen section of the continent and one can buy designer snow boots to 30 below Zero! In the Handmaid's tale Women are divided into a small range of social categories, each one signified by a specific-color dress in a similar style. Handmaids wear red, Marthas wear green, and Wives wear blue. Econowives, the lower-class women , are sort of a mixture of all these categories, so they wear stripes. In Gilead women are compartmentalized. Offred describes her handmaid's outfit as,
"The skirt is ankle-length, full, gathered to a flat yoke that extends over the breasts, the sleeves are full. The white wings too are prescribed issue; they are to keep us from seeing, but also from being seen. I never looked good in red, it's not my color. "
She mentions that red is "not my colour" as a darkly ironic joke. The clothes have merely made it easier to decipher which commodity a specific woman facilitates. Today I think the social contrast, at least in western society, is a lot more subtle. Women are covertly and subliminally subjugated through largely male controlled advertising. A certain "look" denotes a certain personality. Of course in strict Islamic countries the subjugation is much more overt. The Burka, for example, represents the type of repression similar to the novel.